Devon farmer Ian Dennis has issued a heartfelt plea to dog walkers following a horrific attack on his sheep which took place on his farm at Longcombe, near Totnes.

Having just endured one of the most horrific cases of livestock worrying in 25 years of farming, Ian said:

"It is totally irresponsible to let dogs off their leads on or around private land where sheep are kept.

"The perpetrator this time came from Buckfastleigh (which is eight miles away).

"On Saturday, December 1 he let his two dogs off the lead and they ran off.

"He spent a relatively short amount of time looking for them, then went home safe in the knowledge that someone else would find and identify them by their tagged collars.

"Effectively abandoned, these dogs attacked our in-lamb breeding ewes that afternoon but ran off when we tried to stop them.

"The following day they attacked our lambs in a hidden valley where they massacred six of them and seriously injured another five.

"A breeding ram died and two of our breeding ewes are unlikely to survive too.

"My family has lost sleep the last couple of nights, haunted by the terrible injuries and suffering that our animals must have gone through.

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"To lose control of your dogs is bad enough but to go home, leaving them on the rampage in our countryside is outrageous.

"Many people say ‘My dog would never chase a sheep’ - in my opinion and given the right circumstances, ALL dogs are capable of this – they are carnivores who are descended from wolves. We have two well behaved, affectionate dogs on our farm but if we abandoned them for 24 hours in territory they were unfamiliar with they would, without doubt, behave in exactly the same way.

"As farmers we need the public to understand that farm animals are not just our livelihood - we do actually care about them and take a pride in what we do, spending huge amounts of time rearing and nurturing them.

"Sadly it is becoming harder and harder for us to operate.

"We have had travellers on our land more times than I’d care to mention and last January some kind person stole 15 of our ewes while they were out grazing. "We constantly find people walking in our fields even though there are no public rights of way over our farm. We are having to lock all our field gates which hampers our day to day activities.

"Financially, farming is in a poor state but if people in the south west want to continue looking at beautiful views of well-kept land sustaining happy, healthy grazing animals, hardworking farmers need public support.

"Please, buy and enjoy our beautiful produce and respect our activities enough to not treat farms as public open spaces."